Winter’s First Touch

We set up in the bleachers with our music stands, and prepped our instruments for three hours of playing the same 6 songs over and again. It was an average Friday night game. The late Summer heat kept the field a balmy 90F, and I was thankful that I wore a spaghetti strap top and shorts today. It didn’t quite matter, since the marching uniform was like an oven over me, but every bit made a difference.

It had been a short hour and a half ride from Paris (TX) to Mount Pleasant, and my tiny group of friends had spent the whole time talking about Pulp Fiction and “U-ma, u-ma!” while listening to Blues Traveler and Goo Goo Dolls. Now out of the bus, it seemed the temperature had risen ten degrees, and my uniform was sticking to me in all the wrong places. The sun couldn’t set fast enough.

We stood, readied our instruments, and started the fight song as the football players took the field. In the distance, a gray cloud system was forming. It was far enough away it seemed hardly a threat. In an age before cell phones or portable internet devices, we weren’t able to get instant data to tell us what it was. Still, the directors agreed that if it came closer, we’d probably leave. Wet instruments were worthless instruments.

It blew in within seconds; it seemed. We finished the fight song, and it had covered the entire field. There was a light mist, but the worst of it was the ferocious wind.

It was so cold and biting and intense that it froze the sweat on our skins and knocked over all the music stands with a monstrous, almost simultaneous “clang.” Sheet music flew out into the field and stands, and we clambered to grab anything and everything. I watched and mimicked the other flutists as they tucked their instruments under their uniform jackets. I put my marching band hat on my head and pushed it down just above my eyes to avoid it falling off me. Then grabbed a music stand in both arms and grimaced as the tripod legs took turns hitting the back of my running legs.

We loaded the buses and vans with the drums and stands, all while our teeth chattered and fingers froze. Once in the bus and on our way back home, the only sound anyone could make was the common “brrrr” as we huddled in our corners of the seats and wished the heat was back.

Winter had come, and he was a cold bastard.

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Unemployed

“How’d it go?” he asked me.

Before I was down the street, I had called my husband, stopping to strip off my blazer with my briefcase tucked between my legs. The Friday afternoon sun bore down on me, slowly melting the makeup on my face.

“Really well!” I told him, excited. “…Of course, that probably means I didn’t get the job.”

He let out a mirthless laugh.

“I’m cautiously optimistic,” I said. “It’s so perfect for me. Honestly, it hasn’t even been two weeks since my retrenchment.”

He paused. Only three days before he had been the symbol of strength, telling me to leave the money worries behind and focus on me.

“So tell me all about it,” he finally said.

Monday morning at 8am, I received the call. “How’d you think you went?” the recruiter asked.

I knew from the question I had won the position.

I was right.

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New Year Adventure

2019 started with an early morning dog walk. It was midway through the walk when I received a call from hubby that he was trying to catch a dog that was running across the streets where he was walking our other dog.

I raced home to get the car, grab the keys, put my girl (dog) in the backyard, and took a lead. The dog was not collared, hubby had said, and I was willing to bet not microchipped either.

I found hubby on the corner of a main road with our boy sitting very patiently and the stray wagging her tail in hubby’s arms. She was a beautiful, young, red Kelpie with sagging teats. It took us both to put her into the car and strap her in safely.

At 6:30 in the morning, there weren’t many options available to us. I tried calling the RSPCA, but after 30min, I was still on hold. Meanwhile we brought her to our house where she terrorized our cats and was too scared to play with our big dogs. We couldn’t keep her, but it was also a public holiday and likely not much would be open.

Hubby called a local vet at 7am when they opened, who said they could take her if she was microchipped only. I finally got onto the RSPCA who told me that they didn’t take lost dogs, but they did put us on file as having found her in case the owners called. The Pound wasn’t open on public holidays, but they had metal drop boxes for lost dogs that were checked periodically through the day.

We took her to the vet first. But we were right. No microchip in her. So they told us to take her to the drop boxes or keep her until the owner called the RSPCA.

By this point, I’m so sad for the little girl; it seemed no one wanted her. She was a gorgeous dog with a big smile and constantly wagging upright tail. I swear she was still a puppy, but she wasn’t trained at all. I was pretty certain she was just used to be bred. So a giant part of me just wanted to rescue her from the made-up life I had created in my head.

We drove over to the drop boxes that both the vet and RSPCA told us about, and I was instantly in tears. These metal boxes had very little light in them, were small and cramped, with no water in them. They looked so inhumane. We were lucky that another lady was there before we arrived, and had blocked the entrance in hopes of catching one of the after hours employees as they tried to come into work. And it worked, just as we arrived.

We didn’t have to put the little darling into that horrible box, and we were able to see her be taken straight into the kennels. We left, both sad for her but happy we had hopefully saved a life on New Year’s Day.

Two hours later, the RSPCA called me. The owner was looking for a dog fitting my description.

Embarrassing

I sat in the rear of the auditorium with my parents. I graduated earlier that year and yet here I was back at my old high school. I was only here for my brother and sister. I wasn’t one of “those kids” that couldn’t leave my high school behind me.

It was a long two-hour show. The sopranos were quiet compared to the powerhouses of the last year, myself not included, but the tenors had been amazing. At the end, I knew what happened next. Every Christmas, the Paris High School Concert Choir sang “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah, and every year, the music director invited alumni to join in the song, on-stage.

I am not one of “those kids.”

I sat and watched as a handful of people walked onto the stage. “Losers,” I whispered.

The music director said it again. Is she trying to coax me onto the stage?

Nope. I’m not doing it. Can’t make me.

I stared at my sister in the alto section. Her eyes looked focused on me.

“Don’t do it, Mel.” “Do it.”

Do you really want me up there with you? 

“No. Yes. No. Yes.” I couldn’t tell what she wanted.

A final call came out, and Dad patted my shoulder. “Go on, Mel.”

Ugh. Fine.

It’s a long, agonizing walk to the stage. I’m holding everyone up now. 

I tried a casual jog. I reached the stairs and took one. Hurry up! 

I lift my foot to the next and tripped.

My knees and palms dropped onto the hard cedar steps. Ow!

Laughter erupts in the auditorium and on-stage. Jeezus, everyone’s laughing at me! I found out later that I exaggerated it in my head, but boos are louder than cheers.

Can’t back out now. I swore, bit the corner of my lip, and rose with a groan. I took the rest of the stairs at a deliberate pace.

I stood at the end of the sopranos with my heart in my throat. I swallowed, trying to regain my composure, and declined the sheet music. I gave the music director a half-smile and a nod when she asked if I was okay. She lifted her hands, and the music began. Soft, be soft. You have nothing to prove.

We sang the song. I had to admit I enjoyed it, but I also was never, ever, going to do that again. I left the stage, sure I dropped my pride on those steps.

On the ride home, Dad admitted, “You sang louder than everyone else.”

“Great,” I said with a blush. Of course I did.


The Space Between – a introspection

I watch a lot of TV. Probably far too much. Recently, though, I sat down to watch Master of None on Netflix. (I know I’m rather late to the party.) As the credits faded to black on the final episode, I was hit with the sadness that comes with realizing I was all caught up. I immediately did a search for “Master of None season 3” and was met with this:

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I swallowed. Hard. What alleged behaviour? How had I missed this?

I did as I always do when I read something, I researched. In this day when information flows faster than thought, it’s important to do your homework before establishing an opinion. At least, that’s what I think, and I wish it was the case across the board, because then we’d not have instances like the whole Ruby Rose issue from two weeks ago. If you believed everything you saw online, you’d think that no one agrees on anything anymore, but what about that space between – where most of us live?  

I watched Master of None believing fully that Ansari, having written most of the episodes, practiced what he was preaching in the show. The focus on race and gender inequality was what drew me in and kept me hanging around. I was grateful to have a show that didn’t merely talk but embodied what I thought should be the way people handled racism and sexism. It hurt to know it had been a manipulation. Would it have been better if I had never watched the series at all?

I’ll admit. I mostly try to avoid watching anything with celebrities that I know have been exposed by the MeToo movement or have been exposed in someway. I know I’m just one person, but I want to show the entertainment industry that I will not support these people. I also do the reverse and  support movies and productions that I wish Hollywood would make more of, but that’s not what this piece is about.

I can’t watch Kevin Spacey anymore, nor can I see anything with Bill Cosby, Louis CK, Johnny Depp, Jeffrey Tambor, Danny Masterson, Steven Seagal, etc etc, or directed movies by Woody Allen, Bryan Singer, Roman Polanski. After this last week, I’m not so sure I can watch Shane Black movies, even though his offense was hiring a sex offender.

The list keeps growing. It’s all a bit too much to keep track of sometimes, so at what point do you just give up? And where is the space between the person and the art?

Hundreds of people are involved in a production. Kevin Spacey was replaced by Christopher Plummer amid the allegations last year in All the Money in the World. Netflix did the right thing and kept House of Cards for one final season, featuring Claire Underwood, but what about Roseanne? She was the title character. Does a series like The Connors make sense to the public?

Somehow, though, people still like Mel Gibson. He continues to work despite being a shitty human being. Bryan Singer is still directing. Louis CK receives standing ovations. Johnny Depp is allowed to play in two major franchises (which leaves me in a conundrum when deciding if I should or shouldn’t watch the next Fantastic Beasts, despite being a moderate Potterhead).

I sat down to watch Manchester by the Sea last year, despite knowing about Casey Affleck. If I had boycotted it, I would have missed an incredible performance and the best written movie I’ve seen in recent memory. I’d have missed Master of None’s phenomenal “Thanksgiving” episode if I had known about Ansari. So the question remains, what about that space between boycotting a person and an entire production?

I don’t really have an answer, and I don’t think I ever will.